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Past publisher Arlin Albrecht earns UWRF's top alumni honor

Arlin Albrecht of Red Wing, former publisher of 10 area newspapers, will be honored at Saturday's UW-RF commencement ceremonies.

Arlin Albrecht parlayed a degree in economics and journalism into success in several fields, especially publishing, banking and health care.

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls will honor the former publisher of 10 area newspapers on Saturday, naming him the distinguished alumnus of the year.

"I feel pretty humble about this because I think River Falls has an awful lot of distinguished graduates," Albrecht said. "I'm grateful, of course, but it's an honor a lot of people should share."

Those graduates include his wife, Marilyn. He called her his partner in everything.

Saturday's commencement will involve two ceremonies in the Robert P. Knowles Physical Education and Recreation Center. The 9:30 a.m. ceremony will include students from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, the College of Business and Economics and Graduate Studies. The 2 p.m. ceremony will include students from the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education and Professional Studies.

Albrecht, of Wacouta, will be recognized at both events.

"We are proud to honor a UW-River Falls alumnus who has meant so much to the Red Wing community and the greater St. Croix Valley. Arlin is the embodiment of our institutional mission to educate students so that they are successful as productive, creative, ethical, engaged citizens and leaders," Chancellor Van Galen said. "He will serve as a shining example for the graduates who will hear his story at commencement."

Albrecht graduated in 1958, earning a bachelor's degree in economics with minors in journalism and agriculture. He began his career at the River Falls Journal, a newspaper he would later own, along with the Hudson Star-Observer, New Richmond News and Pierce County Herald newspapers.

He moved on to the St. Paul Pioneer Press and then joined the Red Wing Publishing Co. in 1962 as managing editor of the Republican Eagle. He became the late Phil Duff's partner in 1967, eventually becoming chairman and chief executive officer.

Red Wing Publishing grew from one newspaper to 21 and employed more than 400 workers.

"It started with a history, really, of producing an excellent newspaper in Red Wing. That allowed us to get the attention of independent owners of newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin," Albrecht said.

Families owned most small newspapers back then and tended to live in the communities where they published, he said. Many wanted to continue that tradition of independence and chose to sell to Red Wing Publishing.

"That is how we built the company," he said.

"At that time, frankly, it was easier to be in the media business," he added. The competition wasn't as stiff and the instantaneous nature of news via the Internet hadn't pervaded society.

"One of the challenges facing graduates today is the over supply of information," Albrecht said, and he'll talk about that in his commencement remarks Saturday.

"It's just a deluge that is bombarding us 24 hours a day, and so much of the responsibility is placed on the individual to sort out what is good information and what is bad information. In simpler times, an awful lot of the information that was trivial or erroneous tended to be weeded out before being published," he said.

Albrecht credited having strong employees at the helms of his newspapers with enabling him "to go prospecting elsewhere." In addition to other business ventures, he found success in community banking and non-profit health care, starting with service on the former Goodhue County National Bank Board and later Fairview Red Wing Health Services Board.

Albrecht remains best known, however, for his journalism achievements. The UW-RF Chancellor's Office noted that Red Wing Publishing's papers have won several National Newspaper Association "Best in Nation" awards. The R-E earned the designation in 1998.

The Minnesota Newspaper Association awarded him the Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award by in 1990 and the Al McIntosh Distinguished Service to Journalism Award - MNA's highest honor - in 1997.

In 2001, he divested half of the company, selling the R-E and the RiverTown Newspaper Group to Forum Communications Co. Today, Red Wing Publishing owns 11 weekly and biweekly newspapers, including the Hutchinson (Minn.) Leader and Litchfield Independent Review, International Falls Journal and six publications in the Twin Cities' southwest suburbs.

Albrecht and Marilyn Albrecht, a 1956 UW-RF alum, are the parents of two grown children, Rebecca and Elizabeth, and have five grandchildren.

Members of the class of 1960 and their guests will be on campus Friday evening, May 14, and Saturday, May 15, celebrating their 50th Golden Jubilee Reunion.

On Friday evening, reunion attendees will attend a reception honoring their class and the Distinguished Alumnus, Honorary

Degree, and Outstanding Teacher Award recipients.

On Saturday, plans include leading the afternoon processional at the UWRF commencement ceremony, meeting with classmates, attending a reception/luncheon,receiving a university update and participating in a campus and community tour.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

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